PhD project: Materials for the future: biobased viscoelastic fluids for biomedical applications

Project description

Viscoelastic materials, displaying both solid-like and fluid-like characteristics, are common in biomedical applications, from polymeric structures and coatings to load-bearing connective tissues. Many biological fluids, such as blood, synovial fluid, mucus, and saliva, have non-Newtonian properties and can display significant viscoelastic behaviour. Furthermore, viscoelastic liquids are often used in biomedical applications due to their unique mechanical properties, which can be tailored to mimic biological tissues. Some examples are hydrogels for tissue engineering and drug delivery systems, synovial fluid substitutes, ophthalmic solutions, injectable biomaterials, dermal fillers, and contrast agents.

Currently, and due to tightening environmental policies and consumer awareness, various industry sectors are actively trying to move towards sustainable materials and processes. Biopolymers have gotten tremendous interest in various applications where sustainable and biodegradable solutions are needed.  Understanding the fundamental physics that underpins biopolymer behaviour is key to find their best potential application.

In this project you will first build an understanding of the fundamental physics of a selection of biopolymers and flag potential biomedical applications based on their properties. Then you will further investigate the properties of a biopolymer, build model systems around it, and study their flow properties in a variety of relevant geometries targeting a specific biomedical application. The project presents elements of fundamental research while still maintaining an applied goal and can be adapted towards the student’s interests. The project offers the opportunity of a multidisciplinary training in a variety of techniques as rheology, microscopy, 3D printing and surface energy. Furthermore, the skills and knowledge gained during this project will be largely transferable to industry.

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